The ritual does get old.
But, however much we dread and complain about it, there is always that glimmer of hope, that sliver of excitement about the search. Fair enough, we all start off with an ideal, with that image of perfection, with the life ahead of us all planned and figured out. In the process, we get disappointed and even frustrated. But, there are pleasant surprises along the way as well. After a while you start to give in, and you start to relax your search criteria and you lower your expectations. You wonder if you’re settling too early, if you should wait it out, aim higher, take a little break. Then you take a leap of faith and go for it. You wonder if the positive feeling is mutual. Would s/he return your call with positive news? Is the offer going to be accepted? Let’s face it, this has happened to most of us—whether you are house hunting-- or spouse hunting-- in the urban jungle.
In London, and I dare say in most big cities of the world in this day and age, finding a date and finding an apartment (of quality) appear to take up more of one’s time and effort than seemingly necessary. The two processes are surprisingly similar if you think about it, and it would be an entirely fascinating social experiment to see how people’s house-hunting and spouse-hunting behaviors correlate—does the fact that you can only sign up for short-leases with short-term break clauses say something about your ability to commit? What is the first and most important thing that you look for in an apartment and what does that say about your priorities in a relationship context?
These days, conversations tend to gravitate towards one or both of two topics: home-ownership and home-making (a.k.a. getting hitched). The two, of course, go hand in hand.
A professor of economics used to tell me that in the long run, it doesn’t really matter whether you buy or rent—as a matter of fact, most people underestimate the cost of home-ownership. I believe he is right. But sometimes I wonder if home-ownership is easier just because it saves us from the agony of having to go through the annual/ bi-annual routine of apartment-hunting, or ever-so-often having to worry about the landlord cranking up the rent or selling on the apartment, and so on, and so forth. And maybe, there there just something fundamentally satisfying in knowing that there is something which you can call your own, something that you can fix up, build up, and grow old in?
I wonder if the same can be said about marriage. Can the same be said that in the long run, it doesn’t really matter whether you are married or just in a long-term committed relationship? And do people in fact underestimate the “cost” and effort that goes into a marriage? Or is there just something fundamentally reassuring to know that there is someone who can be there to fix you if you are broken, stand by you, and grow old with you?
The question then becomes (ok, so maybe there are more than one question here): when is a renter ready to own? And can someone who has never signed a lease beyond 12 months take the leap of faith and—gasp, settle down and into something that is intended to last forever, and build on it, and grow into it, and grow old in/ with it?